TOKYO (Reuters) -The Bank of Japan on Thursday conducted emergency bond-buying operations, extending efforts to put a floor under bond prices, as the yen nears a 32-year-low against the dollar.
The BOJ offered to buy some 250 billion yen ($1.67 billion)of government bonds with maturities from 5- to longer than 25 years. But its effect was limited as yields only kept rising, sending the 5- and 20-year bond yields to their highest levels since 2015.
“Upward pressure on yields is so strong that the BOJ’s purchase of the bonds with that amount won’t stop yields from rising,” said Masayuki Koguchi, general manager at the fixed income investment division of Mitsubishi UFJ Kokusai Asset Management.
“Demand for bonds is weak as investors’ portfolios were hurt from rising yields, so they are not motivated to buy bonds. The market is in a vicious circle.”
The BOJ remains an outlier among a global wave of central banks tightening monetary policy to combat soaring inflation, as it focuses on underpinning a fragile economy.
The widening divergence between U.S. and Japanese policies and differce in yields has driven the yen’s sharp declines against the dollar this year.
The BOJ’s move came as the yen currency teetered at the break of 150 to the dollar, a level that would mark a 32-year-low and has been seen as psychologically important for market players.
“The weak yen would boost prices (inflation) in Japan, which is another cause for a sell-off of bonds,” said Koguchi.
But the central bank has so far showed no sign of changing tack. Policymakers in the world’s third-largest economy have repeatedly stressed the need to keep policy ultra-loose, citing a fragile recovery, weak domestic demand and plenty of overseas risks.
Yields kept rising even as the central bank last month surprised the market by boosting its regular bond buying for the current quarter.
Thursday’s move showed the BOJ was continuing with its bond-buying and its long-held “yield curve control” (YCC) policy, in which it keeps the yield on 10-year debt at around 0%.
The central bank said on Thursday it would buy 100 billion yen of JGBs with maturities of 10-20 years, another 100 billion of bonds with maturities of 5-10 years and 50 billion yen of bonds with maturities longer than 25 years.
Most strategists expect the Bank of Japan to keep its ultra-low policy unchanged at the policy meeting next week, but some say will need to ditch its YCC policy.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year JGB briefly touched 0.255% for the second straight day, above the BOJ’s policy ceiling, before retreating to 0.25%, within the band.
($1 = 149.9200 yen)
(Reporting by Junko Fujita and David Dolan; Editing by Sam Holmes and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)